Energy. Environment. Economy.

Wolf budget includes $100K for Marcellus Shale health registry

In his budget plan unveiled Tuesday, Governor Wolf proposed a $100,000 funding increase to the state Department of Health to create a registry to monitor people who live near natural gas drilling sites.

After New York State banned fracking late last year, citing public health concerns, Wolf said he planned to create a registry to monitor health complaints in Pennsylvania. States with significant oil and gas development handle public health issues differently. Colorado currently maintains an online public database of drilling-related complaints.

Public health advocates are encouraged by Wolf’s plan, but say $100,000 is not nearly enough money. Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy teaches public health at Villanova University.

“It’s seed money to get a health registry started,” she says. “But to consider the long term health impacts, then more money is going to need to be committed.”

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said details about how the registry would work have not been determined yet.

Last June two former state health workers accused Pennsylvania of deliberately ignoring complaints. They said they were given a list of 19 drilling-related buzzwords including “fracking”, “natural gas,” and “cancer cluster.” If someone called the Department of Health and used any of those words, they were told to refer that person to the agency’s Bureau of Epidemiology. It’s unclear where the complaints went from there. The department disputed the workers’ account and said it followed up on the calls.

Wolf’s proposed registry isn’t the only effort in Harrisburg to increase oversight into potential Marcellus Shale-related health issues.

Last week a state Senate committee approved SB 375. The bill was introduced by Senate President Pro-Tempore Joe Scarnati (R- Jefferson) and would create a nine-member panel to examine oil and gas-related health impacts.

Note: this story has been updated to include reaction to the proposal and a comment from the Health Department.


  • MrPittsburgh

    It’s about time!

  • Fracked

    this does not address the proximity of gas wells and compressors, pipeline to homes and schools..that is the issue. I do not want to be part of the experiment.

  • AlSever

    Hope they spend it all studying the Anti Gas people suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  • kenneth weir

    Al, you are such a jokester,you should have never retired from the stage.

  • StephenCleghorn

    I recall asking Mr. Wolf in Dubois, PA (hen he was a candidate running for governor) if he would commit 1% of his proposed extraction tax to launching a serious investigation of the public health impacts of fracking. At a projected $1 Billion in revenue that would be $10 Million to bring to fruition, and quickly, some data gathering and analysis already underway that could tell us whether we have serious health impacts already occurring in the gas fields of PA. My point was that we had studies underway that could be funded to completion and we needed a major new commitment to a public health assessment of this industry. He told me he would take the issue seriously and get his Department of Health working on it. Now I read that he devotes just $100,000 to that in his budget. That is not a serious number. This is just 1/10,000 (one ten-thousandth) of what one year of extraction tax might bring to the state. Governor Wolf should be ashamed on even offering this number, but clearly he is not. So on we go with a major experiment being conducted out in the gas fields with Pennsylvanians the lab rats of that experiment. You want to know what sickens me? That sickens me.

  • Maren

    $100k? Has Governor Wolf ever done (or funded) any scientific research? That is vastly inadequate given the stakes here. $10M would be much more like it, and would still amount to only a tiny fraction of the proposed severance tax. The “registry” needs to be more than a list; the initiative needs to research and document cases so that the drilling companies won’t be able to claim insufficient data (which means someone’s traveling all over the Commonwealth to visit residents and interview medical practitioners), it needs epidemiologists to analyze those data to glean a coherent picture of the situation on the ground, and it also needs to study the state of the air and water before, during, and after (even long after) drilling, fracking, and well plugging as well as compression and transport in each region. Long-term public health risks from climate change associated with methane leaking, venting, flaring, and abandoned wells must not be ignored, either.

  • Steve Todd

    Glad to see PA finally do this.

    They should start with “The List of the Harmed.” It has been online, for free for years. It was created by one woman on her own laptop, using MSWord. CWoPA will burn through $100k and have nothing nearly as complete or user friendly. But, hey: at least we are starting to acknowledge there are folks hurt by fracking…a half a decade and thousands of wells and miles of pipelines in.

    US List of the Harmed:

    PA List of the Harmed:

  • Sara Hirschler

    $100,000 is an inadequate amount of money to properly study the health impacts on people living near fracking sites. Let’s hope Governor Wolf wakes up and realizes he needs to commit more funds to this important research.

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